The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies
February 28, 2012 7:59 PM   Subscribe

Welcome, artists and aficionados alike, to the brand new home of The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies, where tools of the trade that have died or have just about died a slow death are cheerfully exhibited...
posted by Confess, Fletch (33 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Squee at 8:09 PM on February 28, 2012

Ah, wonderful. We were just talking today about the few wonderful art stores that remain, true specialists' paradises with that wonderful smell. I grew up around a lot of drawing, drafting (the drafting-table kind) and handlettering tools courtesy of my dad, and still have a Speedball lettering book that I'm holding on to for posterity, as well as some of his templates, T-squares and a French curve.
posted by Miko at 8:18 PM on February 28, 2012

Needs an animation category....

Blackwing Pencils
Animation Desk

....for starters!

Happy to see Loomis's "Fun With a Pencil" there at least. Some of his other fantastic Figure Drawing books have been reprinted in the last year or so (Figure Drawing For All It's Worth, Drawing the Head and Hands, Successful Drawing) so hopefully Fun With a Pencil will get the same treatment someday too.
posted by Squee at 8:21 PM on February 28, 2012

It's funny - my artist friends and I comb ebay for old, outdated drafting supplies, because they are the highest quality equipment you can find. We use lead holders and 2mm leads for our drawings, and we drool over vintage drafting lead pointers. Compare the venerable Eagle 17 to the POS plastic ones that you find in stores now. The former lasts 40 years and the latter lasts a week. I've also used technical pens quite a bit.

I'm buying up drafting supplies that went out of production ten years before I was born. It's kind of sad, really. I got a sharpener from the seventies from an estate sale, and it still had graphite dust in it; the last time it was used it was by a dead craftsman whose vocation no longer exists. At least a few of us still get to use, appreciate and care for this stuff. Old, well-made tools have more soul.
posted by amcm at 8:22 PM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Poor neglected art supplies...anyone know where I can find what looks like an unused set of Rapidograph pens for $5? I loved those things.
posted by the_artificer at 8:22 PM on February 28, 2012

Oy. That website is overflowing with hubris.
posted by crunchland at 8:22 PM on February 28, 2012

OMG Letraset. One of my favourite possessions as a kid was the out of date Letraset catalogue my dad brought home from work. I loved looking at all the typefaces and spent hours tracing/copying them.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:25 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The dude in the cube next to me uses a Schaedler pica rule all the time. Sometimes I swipe it and wield it like a sword and he grabs it back before I can break it.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:25 PM on February 28, 2012

I've got most of this stuff. My dad was a painter, and I'm a designer who spent the first ten years of my career using temperamental drafting aids. Then along came the Mac...
posted by marvin at 8:30 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

You know, I think that there will come a day, if it hasn't already happened, that all of this stuff will be redeemed. We're already seeing signs of a backlash to our digital society with the whole Maker movement ... people want to keep bees and chicken coops in the city, for God's sake. Just like back at the turn of the 19th/20th century -- what we call the Arts and Crafts movement -- was a reaction to the mechanization and industrialization of the decorative arts, and people valued and sought out handcrafted items as superior to the stuff the factories were churning out. I collect old mechanical clocks and timepieces, and a friend of mine collects antique typewriters, and another abhors mp3s and will only listen to music on vinyl.

I think it's a little premature to call this all of this stuff obsolete. People will always need to cut paper, or varnish paintings.
posted by crunchland at 8:33 PM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:43 PM on February 28, 2012

I was an art major in the 80s, so there's a bunch of nostalgic stuff here for me. I gasped a little when I saw the Dr. Ph Martin's watercolors, because I used to loooooove those and buy one bottle at a time, but hadn't thought about them in years.

Now my instant gratification center is trying to convince me that I need to buy a big set.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:44 PM on February 28, 2012

I remember very clearly how I lusted after my first set of Rapidographs, (why did everyone call them rapid-e-ographs? Drove me nuts) and how grown-up I felt when we bought our set a few weeks after going into business in '92. They're still out there in my garage, in a drawer with a whole bunch of other stuff I can't bear to give away -- my first metal compass, from drafting class in jr. high school, 5 or 6 French curves, 45 & 60º triangles, & somewhere, I've still got a small cache of Letraset presstype & Zip-a-tone. I don't know where my swivel knife was, but although I wasn't a pro like Kozik (That guy was fucking fast!) I was a pretty good amberlith seperationist in my day.

When we moved the shop the second-to-the-last time, we left behind a giant copy camera, because I couldn't give it away. 40 x 50 art back on a 17 foot track, with a 26 x 36 film back, CMYK filters, 3 lenses -- I could reduce to 16% & enlarge to 450%. I miss the darkroom -- it was the best real excuse for not being able to see a client or take a phone call ever. "Sorry, I've got film out!" Take a message!" I miss the smell of the chemistry, & the dim red light, and I miss the solitude.

Mostly I wouldn't go back, because so much production art was such a time-consuming pain in the ass (Drop-shadows! Holy crap, that was a stupid pain compared to option+dragging. Wow), but I get a little wistful about that pretty huge skillset that's only parenthetically useful, anymore, despite having given me a foundation.

These days someone like Glennz emails me an Illustrator file from New Zealand, and I've got film spooling off the Epson 4880 15 minutes after it hits my in box. There's still skill in being a computer production art jockey -- I especially love tinkering with process color and duotones -- but it's not the same visceral act, and a mouse & a Wacom tablet, while nice, don't serve as the talismans of an arcane art the way all the paraphernalia we used to keep did.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:44 PM on February 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Drafting Machines for the win... I took technical drawing in Highschool, and one of those babies could make any competent draftsman into a superhero. I still kind of want one, to do perspective lines when roughing out a comic strip, but at $600 a pop, for the budget model, I think I'll just daydream about picking up the pencil again.

They do have a portable paralel blade board, which is pretty cool, and I still have my triangle set... but man, a drafting machine is so fast and easy to get paralel or converging lines right.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 PM on February 28, 2012

Squeak Attack: " gasped a little when I saw the Dr. Ph Martin's watercolors."

I have a set of these I use in my Iwata airbrush. Though these days when painting with my airbrush I will instinctively think Ctrl-Z any time I make a mistake.
posted by the_artificer at 9:04 PM on February 28, 2012

I can almost reproduce whole sections of this museum by opening a box from the shelves in my back room.

Mayline/Borco, French curves, adjustable curves, triangles (although I didn't see an *adjustable* triangle in there), and a bunch of other stuff. Also, stuff we had in the office at work that I don't have myself, like the Acu-Arc (in practice, not really that accurate). I've got a lot of stuff I could add too - beam compass, draft dots...
posted by LionIndex at 9:13 PM on February 28, 2012

So many things... I no longer own.
posted by -t at 9:27 PM on February 28, 2012

You know, I think that there will come a day, if it hasn't already happened, that all of this stuff will be redeemed.

You mean, like visual artists? I know people personally in Denver that have set up bloody collodion photography studios.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:48 PM on February 28, 2012

Yeah, lots of visual artists (and even illustrators who prefer to work in traditional media) still use most of these tools. I mean really. Paintbrushes? Pencils? Guache? Inks? *Kneaded Erasers* WTH?

With the exception of some really outdated mechanical tools, this really isn't the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies, it's the Museum of Supplies You Don't Need if You Now Work Digitally, or Museum of Obsolete Graphic Design and Drafting Tools.

I still have a ton of these items in my studio and find them handy for all sorts of things. Although it's a fairly niche design environment, the scenic and prop shops I've ever worked in still have and make regular use of almost all of these drafting, measuring, templating, and projection tools (particularly things like basic overhead projectors).
posted by stagewhisper at 10:17 PM on February 28, 2012

also most graphic design departments still train their students to brainstorm and work out concepts and compositions by hand using pencils/pens and paper before developing their designs on the computer, so a lot of the basic supplies aren't even obsolete for them yet, either.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:24 PM on February 28, 2012

I, too, have a metric buttload of these tools, having trained as a graphic designer through the 70's. I still have various type gauges, templates, compasses, type specimen books, t-squares, beautiful clear acrylic triangles with printed grids and beveled steel edges, adjustable drawing table, and my beloved proportion wheel.

And, X-acto blades are far from gone or forgotten. Just ask any hobbyist. And, honestly, even in this digital age, any designer worth their salt still finds themselves having to build mock-ups for all manner of custom jobs.

And I do dearly miss my drafting machine. Back in the day, that was like being knighted, when you got to the point of having one of those babies on your table. Thee hath arrived.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:34 AM on February 29, 2012

The dude in the cube next to me uses a Schaedler pica rule all the time. Sometimes I swipe it and wield it like a sword and he grabs it back before I can break it.

Jeez, I have TWO pica rulers on my desk right now.

Hey this is a great site and I swear I looked at it a while ago and it was down. Now it appears to be reorganized and back online, better than ever.

And yeah, I have used almost all of these devices, including some of the big machines like the AGFA Repromaster, Lucigraph, and the Kroytype. I own dozens of these old gadgets. Some of them I don't own and I'd give about anything to have them.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:43 AM on February 29, 2012

This is great; takes me back to my drafting class in high school (when I was thinking about becoming an architect) Needs more scales, though. I have a friend who is a draftsman who still uses all this stuff, so it is not obsolete quite yet.
posted by TedW at 5:36 AM on February 29, 2012

You know, I think that there will come a day, if it hasn't already happened, that all of this stuff will be redeemed.

It always happens. And as far as handlettering, it's already huge in arty circles and I think will have a total national revival very shortly.
posted by Miko at 6:20 AM on February 29, 2012

Yeah, I still have all this stuff and I use a lot of it every day. Proportion wheel, haberule, schaedler rule when I need really accurate measurements, type gauge, kneaded eraser, triangles, white tape. I bought a flexible curve last year and will be buying a color aid swatch book next. I'm hoarding a box of No. 11 x-acto knife blades from the 70s when they were made from higher quality steel. There's only so much you can do on a Mac with Adobe software.

I got rid of the 000 rapid-o-graphs tho.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:40 AM on February 29, 2012

I'm still hoping to find a detailed history of the art supply business, and the changing nature and source of materials. This is not that site, but it does show a lot of cool vintage packaging and stuff I'd forgotten. For instance, someone posted Flo-Master ink, possibly the most toxic 20th century art supply after radioactive clock-dial paint.

But nothing about paper? Canary tracing paper seems like it would fit in, for example.
posted by pernoctalian at 8:18 AM on February 29, 2012

Oh boy...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:59 AM on February 29, 2012

I got rid of the 000 rapid-o-graphs tho.

Lemme guess...You found them while rummaging around and discovered the needle was permanently stuck with dry ink? That's how I discovered mine. Sad.

I still have a stack of Aquabee 100% rag marker pads. Sweeeet stuff to draw on.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:39 PM on February 29, 2012

Soak them in 91% Isopropyl Alcohol and/or use an ultrasonic cleaner.
posted by the_artificer at 2:10 PM on February 29, 2012

Some of the things featured on the site are genuinely obsolete, replaced by things much easier to use. Others are still being used every day in a variety of tasks.

It's kind of like the old-style DIN connectors on keyboards versus ethernet RJ45 connectors. DIN cables died out because other things were around that did the same job and took up less space; like Letraset, or drawing straight lines with an ink ruling pen were obsoleted by the growing strength of desktop publishing, DIN plugs couldn't compete against PS/2 and USB's multi-modal usefulness.

Ethernet RJ45 connectors are like coloured ink. They've been around for ages, and they are simply the best way of getting some things done. Sure, you can upgrade to wifi or oil inks or photoshop, but then you're going to be spending a lot more and and you'll spend ages faffing around. Sometimes the quickest solution is just patching things together, or throwing some colour on the page.
posted by The River Ivel at 4:33 PM on February 29, 2012

For instance, someone posted Flo-Master ink, possibly the most toxic 20th century art supply after radioactive clock-dial paint.

Whew. I thought it would be Bestine.

And Paper should include Bienfang marker layout pads. Still have those too.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:46 AM on March 1, 2012

Nah, Bestine isn't even close to other common hazards. It's a heptane solvent. It doesn't even come close to the risks of other solvents like Lithotine, which is loaded with methyl ethyl ketone. An ex-gf of mine worked in a printmaking atelier using MEK solvents all day, she'd come home from work and I'd give her a kiss and her breath smelled like MEK solvent. I tried to get her to use a respirator, but they were cumbersome and you'd need to change the filters almost daily, so it was too expensive to be practical.

I'd also rank up there in toxicity those spray adhesives. These are all volatile hydrocarbons that create an inhalation hazard from the vapors, with secondary risk of absorption through the skin. Hell, back when I took chemistry classes in high school, my teacher used to wash his hands with acetone, so people often ignore the risks (even if they know better).

But then I thought about it a bit, and these solvents are just not in the same league as some of the toxic photo chemicals I routinely use, like potassium dichromate. Some of the old color film developing chemicals were also highly toxic. The volatile hydrocarbons generally have long term neurotoxic effects from repeated exposure, but some of these photo chems can be instantly fatal from a single exposure.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:27 AM on March 1, 2012

~For instance, someone posted Flo-Master ink, possibly the most toxic 20th century art supply after radioactive clock-dial paint.

~Whew. I thought it would be Bestine.

You guys obviously never spent a half-hour in a closet making Ozalids. Mmmmmm...ammonia vapor.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2012

« Older 22-hour time lapse of Vancouver's Burrard Inlet on...   |   More free trade IP bullshit. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments